14 February 2007 I drop on my bed with my work clothes. Vowed never to do that, here I am, soaked in grease and kebabs. The blacks give us a hard time downstairs, I thought they were good people but they are arrogant and rude. In Iran we learned blacks are an oppressed people, that the Europeans treated them badly. Morteza says “It’s nothing to do with skin colour, it’s poverty, even if you went to a white area it would be the same – in fact you would be black.” I’m tired of them ordering me about and sucking their teeth and counting on the fact that I’m afraid of them because they’re black. I’m not. If I hesitate in responding it’s because my English is not good, in fact it’s terrible. Three months, and all I’ve learned to say “Chilli sauce salad?” “Everything salad?” So I am not as confident, also I am tired, I am on my feet 4pm to 6am and they pay me fifty pounds. Mr Majidi is a decent guy. He doesn’t pay me much but at least he doesn’t talk to us as if we are shit. That is the customer’s job. This boy is spending two pounds on a burger – two pounds – and he watches over me intently as I put the burger sauce on. If I put a little bit too much or too little he’ll talk to me like I’m dirt. If I say anything, he’ll take the burger and throw it in my face or who knows, shoot me. They shoot each other here, the blacks, I don’t know why they shoot each other, but they do. Not that they should be shooting anyone else. I’m tired of them. It’s poverty isn’t it – “We’re all black in this country,” Morteza says. What country? England to me is a greasy kebab shop where I break my back five nights a week.
17 February Woke up late – missed sunlight. I hate it when that happens. Went to work on no sunlight. The food they feed us here is shit. Have to learn English. Three months now. All I do is work. Phoned mum. They’re all good, dad’s good. Miss them. When will I see them next? Cannot even bear to think about my dear little sister, Sara. She’ll be a bit bigger now, not a great deal, but children don’t wait. Adults, on the other hand, have to be patient. Next week I will find out if my asylum application is accepted, it probably won’t be but I’m hopeful. Most of the boys I work with have failed and are working illegally. None of us knows why they don’t let us work, why we can’t learn the language, they won’t let us. “Their most important rule is to stop us from learning English,” says Morteza. “Language is a weapon”. So, we come here to work. Afghans come to Iran for God’s sake. How screwed must they be. You can tell the Poles from a mile off, they try too hard to pass for English. They’re black too, in away. English people don’t crack open cans of Polish beer in the street. I need a haircut. Then maybe I can think about getting a girlfriend – who’d want to go out with Mr “Chicken or lamb shish”? One of my teeth, I think, is rotting. I’ll give it a few days and hope it disappears. The pain, that is, not the tooth. There’s a home dentistry kit in the local chemist. It’s got mirrors, dental picks, the works. Who needs a medical qualification? This country is amazing, this little corner of it anyway.
19 February Spent five pounds on a Travelcard to get me to an Iranian restaurant near Oxford Street. It was a posh place. They said I need a work permit, the woman apologised for not having mentioned it on the phone. I was angry about the blacks yesterday. Now I’m angry about these Iranians who wasted my travel money. They can drop dead for all I care. But they were nice. They said I’d get the job if I get a permit. But why would I want to work there if I’m allowed to? I’d go to college and get a degree. I’d work there, anywhere but this shit-hole.
21 February Two policemen came into the shop tonight. I was scared shitless. But the other guys were fine. I thought they’d ask for our papers but all they did was ask for a kebab. One of them was black and the other was Indian. You see, there you are, give someone a uniform and a pay cheque and they’re not going to use a threatening tone for burger sauce. They thought I’m a Turk. I let them think that – we’re about to be bombed. Too wrecked to think about the war. They won’t attack us. Of course they will. I don’t know. Twenty-two. I feel sixty-two. I’m off to bed.